NWF: Federal Coal Reforms Are Essential for Wildlife, Water, and Sportsmen

01-11-2017 // Judith Kohler

WASHINGTON – The Interior Department today released a report on the scope of a comprehensive review of the federal coal program after hearing from hundreds of thousands of Americans who attended public meetings and submitted comments. Overwhelmingly, people have called for comprehensive reforms to better protect wildlife, water, land, and recreational opportunities from irresponsible coal leasing and mining on public lands.

Collin O’Mara, the National Wildlife Federation’s president and CEO said:

“For decades, the federal coal program has supported our nation’s energy needs. But over time, we’ve learned a great deal regarding the impacts of that program on wildlife, specifically with respect to impaired water quality and reduced hunting and fishing opportunities by allowing mining in important habitat without strategic forethought and competitive bidding processes.

“Further, too few of the mined areas have been adequately restored to reclaim the degraded land and water, and too few resources have been dedicated to sustained cleanup. The time to overhaul this antiquated program is long overdue,” O’Mara added. “The Bureau of Land Management’s report is an important step forward that we urge the new administration to continue so that fish, wildlife, water, communities, and recreational opportunities are protected, lands are fully reclaimed, and the public receives a fair financial return from coal companies for these public resources.”

During the public comment period, the BLM heard often about the impacts of the program on wildlife and natural resources and the failures of the program, including: below-market federal mineral royalty rates; non-competitive leasing bids; a flawed reclamation bonding program that has allowed companies to “self-bond” to cover their liabilities, regardless of solvency; poor siting of coal lease locations; and failure of companies leasing and mining public lands to meet full reclamation standards as required by law. They also heard about the need for the BLM to account for effects of the coal leasing’s green-house gas emissions.

In the past couple years, NWF has issued detailed reports on the need to ensure that mined areas are reclaimed as required and on protecting wildlife like mule deer, pronghorn and sage grouse from the impacts of mining. This BLM report lays the foundation for addressing many of those concerns.

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